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Keywords:

  • asexual reproduction;
  • bryozoan;
  • Cristatella mucedo;
  • gene flow;
  • genetic variation;
  • metapopulation;
  • microsatellites

Theoretical models of the impact of a metapopulation structure on the genetics of a species have resulted in multiple predictions that have seldom been empirically evaluated. Here we present microsatellite data from 14 populations of a freshwater bryozoan, Cristatella mucedo, collected along a waterfowl migratory route in north-western Europe. C. mucedo is facultatively sexual and has the unusual tactic of dispersing via asexually generated propagules. These propagules are likely to be dispersed by waterfowl and therefore the populations that we sampled were expected to maintain some degree of connectivity. Our data illustrate a metapopulation comprising well-differentiated populations connected by low levels of ongoing gene flow, patterns that agree with predictions based on theoretical work. However, contrary to expectations of a metapopulation, particularly one in which asexual reproduction predominates, genetic variation within populations was often high. This diversity seems to be at least partially attributable to the gene flow that results from ongoing dispersal.